Case Study CAD/CAM software supports evolving tool and mould shop

Editor: Eric Culp

A nearly two-decade partnership with a German software supplier has helped a Scandinavian tool and injection moulding company thrive in new markets.

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Machining a high voltage switch cover for ABB using Schott's Pictures by PC.
Machining a high voltage switch cover for ABB using Schott's Pictures by PC.
(Source: Schott Systeme)

Nestled next to the quiet Norwegian coastal town of Levanger, mould maker Induform AS has been producing mould tools for customers across Scandinavia and Europe since 1975. During this time the company has progressed from being a mould maker and injection moulder to becoming one of the leading component suppliers to the oil industry. Company owner, Tor Sivertsen, attributed much of this success and the company's ability to diversify down to the ongoing 17-year relationship they have maintained with German CAD/CAD software developer, Schott Systeme GmbH, which is based in Munich.

An upgrade develops into a long relationship

Sivertsen founded the company together with one partner. Starting with just a single contract, the company invested in a small number of conventional milling and turning machines. Although initially manually programmed, Induform has to search for a cost-effective CAD/CAM system that could cater for all of their design and machining requirements due to the increasing complexity of parts. In 1995, the decision was made to purchase Schott Systeme’s Pictures by PC CAD/CAM software. This initial decision resulted in immediate productivity gains. Sivertsen said, “From that moment on, a new world opened up for us."

Becoming a ‘one-stop shop’ for design, mould making

Fast forward to today, and a large proportion of Induform’s business remains that of traditional mould making. To remain competitive, Induform has ensured that every aspect of design and machining is kept under one roof. For example, by utilising the full range of Pictures by PC’s 2D graphic and 3D hybrid modelling tools, Induform is said to offer complete design service. A typical day can have the company working on a wide range of projects, from a customer’s logos and graphics required for electrode engraving to developing a complete customer concept and constructing all of the finished mould tooling. Highlighting one aspect, Sivertsen said, “The software’s direct modelling approach enables us to modify a concept on the fly, ensuring that we can complete numerous concept models, complete with machining, within a single day.” He noted that “Our main strength is that we can take ideas from a customer, develop these, construct tooling, machine prototypes and produce final tooling. This ability is 100% down to the correct choice of software.” Having complete trust in the toolpaths generated by the software is said to also ensure that the company’s 3-axis and 5-axis Hermle and Makino machine tools run unmanned at almost full capacity. “In the 17 years that we have used the CAM software to generate toolpaths, we have never actually experienced a machine crash,” he added.

The stability of software costs said to provide money for other investments

Induform has been continuing to invest in new technology. The company's production facility has grown to include new 5-axis machine tools as well as multiple Arburg injection moulding machines for in-house production. The Nordic manufacturer is also looking to further expand production through the purchase of new mill/turn machines. Sivertsen noted that this continued level of investment is largely predicated on the cost savings gained by the partnership with Schott Systeme. He explained that the software supplier’s continued policy of not charging for support and yearly maintenance, while maintaining the same pricing level over a 12-year period, enabled the company to invest in a full CAD/CAM license for every CNC machine tool.

Entry into the metal component marketcreates various challenges

To complement their mould making services, Induform has also diversified to making components for the oil industry. This move has brought with it a unique set of problems associated with the machining of extremely hard materials. However, the software has again supported production, and Sivertsen explained how. “Pictures is unique in the freedom and number of possible machining techniques it allows at all stages of a manufacturing process when generating 3- or 5-axis milling, engraving or turning toolpaths. It is this that enables us to machine extremely difficult parts in special alloys.”

He summed up his experience. “I am continually impressed with what Pictures can do. Of course I have always had confidence in the software, but these abilities confirm that I chose the correct software way back in the nineties”.

Commenting on this partnership, Schott Systeme owner Hans Joachim Schott noted that “This type of partnership is typical of our philosophy, that of providing a technologically advanced solution that is both cost-effective and that offers all of the day-to-day tools within a single software solution.”